Mumbai’s Bara Handi Legacy Lives On

13 Aug, 2015 by Kalyan Karmakar


The lovers of the ancient art of bara handi slow cooking in Mumbai went into mourning when they heard that two of its practioners, Surti 12 Handi and Valibhai Payawallah in Bohri Mohalla had shut down.

Well I went to Bohri Mohalla during Ramzan and saw that there is still some hope.

Turns out that Surti is not shut. It has just relocated to a slightly larger place in the lane going down from Noor Sweets.

The owner of Surti, Mr Nayeem, stands where the old shop was and sends people to the new shop. 

Surti is about 80 years old which makes it older than Valibhai. The family that owns it had come to Mumbai from Surat in Gujarat. They have relatives in Surat and Ahmedabad who run bara handi shops in those cities. Mr Nayeem is the third generation of owners.

The bara handi form of cooking involves cooking odd cuts of meats for around 6 to 8 hours and then mixing them with meat and lentil broths. Mr Nayeem says that this form of slow cooking is what Indian food was once all about.

You get both mutton (goat) and beef (water buffalo) versions here. You can get paya (trotters), nalli (marrow), pichhota (tail) and boti (regular meats). If you add 50 Rs more you can get nalli (marrow) added to your dish which is fully worth it and is seductively alluring. You mop your curry with pieces of huge khameri rotis sold.

There were originally 12 vessels (bara handi) used for the cooking.

Today this has come down to 9.

The local Bohris come here for takeaways which are given in plastic bags.

For the rest of us there are a few tables set out to eat at.

The ambience is pretty basic. The taste experience ethereal.



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